Attitudes Toward Donald Trump in Texas as His Re-election Campaign Kicks Off

Donald Trump formally kicked off his presidential campaign in Orlando, Florida this week, amplified by a (now classic) Trump injection of immigration politics. We've assembled various aspects of Texas voter attitudes toward him based on data from the just-released June 2019 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Texans are evenly divided on the president’s re-election. Trump's prospects in Texas are, of course, conditioned by the remaining –what is it, two? Three? no, wait – 16 months of campaigning still to come; by which candidate Democratic candidate voters ultimately settle on; and by the various, relevant conditions on the ground that have yet to manifest. It should come as no surprise that 73 percent of Republicans definitely intend to re-elect Trump, while 86 percent of Democrats definitely intend to oppose him. It’s easy to make more out of these differences than is warranted, given that the Democrats haven’t chosen a nominee yet, and as such, this item is more an evaluation of Trump than a trial ballot between the president and a flesh and blood Democrat – one whom we would expect to rally Republican voters, even conflicted ones, to their standard bearer. But in a Texas with the potential to be as competitive in 2020 as it was in 2018, if not more so, it’s worth noting that as a group, independents are currently inclined to vote against trump by a 3 to 2 ratio (40 percent inclined to re-elect him, 60 percent inclined to vote for someone else). For what it's worth this far from the actual voting, among those who say they are extremely enthusiastic about the election (about half the sample), Trump beats someone else 56-45.

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Definitely Donald Trump39%
Probably Donald Trump11%
Probably someone else7%
Definitely someone else43%

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Definitely Donald Trump5%26%73%
Probably Donald Trump4%14%17%
Probably someone else6%15%5%
Definitely someone else86%45%5%

Trump’s job approval numbers remain strong, particularly among Republicans. Overall, 52 percent of Texas voters approve of the job Trump is doing as president, with 44 percent disapproving. This is the first time that the president has received a positive mark from a majority of Texas voters, and among Republicans, his approval rating stands at a remarkable 88 percent, with 60 percent of Republicans approving strongly. Not surprisingly, Democratic disapproval is equally lopsided, with 86 percent disapproving of the president’s job performance, 80 percent strongly.

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Approve strongly34%
Approve somewhat18%
Neither approve nor disapprove4%
Disapprove somewhat5%
Disapprove strongly39%
Don't know1%

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Approve strongly6%24%60%
Approve somewhat5%22%28%
Neither approve nor disapprove3%13%4%
Disapprove somewhat6%5%4%
Disapprove strongly80%34%4%
Don't know1%2%1%

Attitudes about Trump’s personal qualities (traits, for the academics among you) remain remarkably stable in the face of arguably the most volatile presidential personality of all time. To be frank: there’s a case to be made that Trump demonstrably lies with great frequency, is subject to periodic public displays of ill-humor, is frank in his lack of empathy, and very often displays a tenuous hold on policy details. Yet significant minorities (and in some cases majorities) of Texans repeatedly say that Trump is honest and trustworthytempermentally suited to be presidentknowledgeable, and “cares about people like you.” One would have to willfully abandon any pretense of evidence-based assessment to avoid the conclusion that Republican assessments are driven by the same partisanship that drives so much of American politics. But what close observers might find more interesting is that there is some evidence that these trait assessments, while already skewed heavily by partisanship, are improving among Republicans. This may be the result of actual decisions and actions made by the president,  partisans digging in their heels, or simply result from the office itself conferring improved trait assessments on its occupant (or, of course, all of these).

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Don't know3%7%11%

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Don't know3%8%4%

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Don't know2%5%7%

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Don't know2%15%8%

Trump’s brinksmanship with Mexico was a win in the eyes of his base in Texas. Trump’s tariff threat might have given Republicans’ pause, but in the end, the intensity of GOP attitudes on immigration in Texas and the comparative lack of depth and intensity on beliefs about trade and the Texas economy carried the day here. Not to mention the fact that he didn’t follow through, at least so far. We wrote prior to Mexico’s agreement to increase its border security activity to avert the president’s tariff threat about our expectation that the public would likely react based on their views of the president, and maybe just as importantly, immigration. A cluster of results in the polling we received this week confirmed much of that expectation. In assessments of Trump’s handling of trade negotiations writ large (that is, without specifying any particular trade partner or policy), 81 percent of Republicans approved (52 percent strongly), and only 10 percent disapproved. Only 27 percent of Republican voters thought the effect of a tariff on goods from Mexico would be bad for the Texas economy, and 27 percent said it would be good for the Texas economy (!). A quarter said it would have no effect. Trump’s threat was pending through most of the data collection period, so we asked:

“How effective do you think a tariff on all goods brought into the United States from Mexico will be at making the Mexican government do more to prevent migrants from coming to the United States?"

Seventy percent of Republicans said it would be very (32 percent) or somewhat (38 percent) effective. The ambiguous agreement with Mexico that forestalled the tariff will certainly be read as a triumph by Trump supporters in the short run. But the same attitudes that buttress Trump’s approach now will likely require him to replay it if the flow of migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border continues despite new Mexican efforts. Trump appears determined to maintain the support of his base on the core emotional issue that binds him to them, and with good reason. In ratings of his job performance on policy, his second highest strong approval ratings (62 percent) is on immigration and border security. Yet there are hazards if delivering on this front means actually following through on a Mexico tariff that is sure to have a negative economic effect in Texas: his highest “approve strongly” rating among Texas Republicans is on his handling of the economy (66 percent).

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Approve strongly4%25%62%
Approve somewhat7%16%23%
Neither approve nor disapprove3%6%6%
Disapprove somewhat5%10%5%
Disapprove strongly79%39%4%
Don’t know1%4%0%

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Approve strongly6%22%66%
Approve somewhat5%26%23%
Neither approve nor disapprove12%8%6%
Disapprove somewhat14%6%2%
Disapprove strongly61%34%2%
Don’t know3%3%1%